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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has asked for a big budget increase to help change the way America’s doctors write prescriptions for narcotic painkillers, to help states provide better patient care and address drug-related violence, among other goals.

Prescription medications are dangerous, says CDC director Thomas Frieden, MD, and particularly opioids. “You only have to take a few doses to become addicted, potentially for life.” And yet, Frieden says, the harms of opioid medications are still not recognized by patients – or by providers.

“This is a problem that was fundamentally created by bad prescribing practices, and it can be ameliorated greatly by improving those practices and providing additional services to patients and to physicians,” Frieden said.

The CDC director is asking the House Committee on Appropriations for nearly quadruple its annual budget allocation for the “Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention for States Program.”

Aimage001  n increase of $54 million for fiscal year 2016 – from $20 million to $74 million – would be used to expand the prescription drug overdose (PDO) program to all 50 states and Washington, DC.

For fiscal year 2015, the CDC asked for a $15.6 million increase to expand the program to several more states. But for 2016, the agency wants to take the program nationwide.

The CDC’s addiction overdose program is aimed at accomplishing three general goals that are seen as major contributors to addiction and overdose:

  1. Improving data quality and surveillance to monitor and respond to the epidemic .
  2. Strengthening state efforts by scaling up effective public health interventions.
  3. Supplying health care providers with the data, tools, and guidance needed to improve the safety of their patients.

The need to address the issues surrounding prescription drug overdose are clear, the CDC says:image003

  • More than 60 people die every day in the United States from overdosing on prescription drugs – over 21,000 a year, eclipsing the American deaths from traffic accidents, natural disasters, disease epidemics and even war.
  • PDO death rates now outnumber deaths from all illicit drugs—including heroin and cocaine—combined.
  • PDO death rates quadrupled in just ten years (1999-2010), claiming more than 16,600 lives in 2010.
  • In 2013, prescription opioid deaths remained essentially level with 2012, maintaining the slight decline seen the previous year but not declining any further.
  • Prescription opioid abuse resulted in more than 400,000 emergency department visits in 2011, and cost health insurers an estimated $72 billion annually in medical costs.

image005One of the details of the program is to maximize the effectiveness of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) and zero in on at-risk communities, the CDC said. PDMPs have fast become a valuable tool in reducing “doctor shopping” for the diversion of addictive drugs to illicit personal abuse as well as drug dealing.

Recent state and county crackdown on Florida’s notorious “pill mills” has seen a significant drop in such activities. The Sunshine State had spent over a decade as the worst state in the nation for the diversion of illicit prescription drugs.

In addition to prescription drugs, the CDC does acknowledge the known problems with illicit street drugs, especially heroin. “Much more remains to be done to address opioid-related [prescription] overdose deaths and also the troubling rise in overdose deaths from illicit drugs such as heroin,” the CDC said.

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If you’re a typical, modern American woman, or even any woman almost anywhere, you’ve likely been taught from birth to stifle your feelings, especially around men.

You’ve been told, and probably have come to believe, that your deeply felt feminine intuitions are suspect and your emotions are not valid and not wanted by others around you – particularly by men.

As a result, when you feel something rather deeply you hesitate to express it with all the care and emotion that propels it. And the result of a lifetime of suppressing your feelings and thinking there’s something wrong with feeling them is, in a word, unhealthy.

Julie Holland, a New York City therapist, expresses it perfectly in a recent Opinion piece in the New York Times Sunday Review. She says that “women are moody. By evolutionary design, we are hard-wired to be sensitive to our environments, empathic to our children’s needs and intuitive of our partners’ intentions. This is basic to our survival and that of our offspring.”

But our society’s cultural habits are opposed to that very natural and healthy nature. “Women’s emotionality is a sign of health, not disease; it is a source of power. But we are under constant pressure to restrain our emotional lives. We have been taught to apologize for our tears, to suppress our anger and to fear being called hysterical.”

Holland points out that the pharmaceutical industry “plays on that fear, targeting women in a barrage of advertising on daytime talk shows and in magazines.” She says that more Americans are on psychiatric medications than ever before and they’re staying on them far longer than was ever intended.

Sales of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications have soared over the past 20 years, she adds, and they’ve recently been outpaced by Abilify, an antipsychotic drug that’s now the number one selling drug among all drugs, not just psychiatric ones.

One out of every four American women are taking some sort of psych drug, compared to one in seven men. In other words, 30 or 40 million women are consuming drugs to try to suppress what in fact are, in all but a tiny fraction of cases, natural human traits that every normal woman is born with.

The situation, Holland says, is simply insane.

Women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression or some sort of “anxiety disorder” and receive prescriptions for psych drugs. This is worse than just making the doctors and especially Big Pharma very rich, which of course is a fact.

It’s creating what Holland calls “a new normal, encouraging more women to seek chemical assistance. Whether a woman needs these drugs should be a medical decision, not a response to peer pressure and consumerism.”

Holland says the “new, medicated normal” is at odds with female biology, in which brain and body chemicals “are meant to be in flux.

“To simplify things, think of serotonin as the ‘it’s all good’ brain chemical. Too high and you don’t care much about anything; too low and everything seems like a problem to be fixed. In the days leading up to menstruation, when emotional sensitivity is heightened, women may feel less insulated, more irritable or dissatisfied,” she says. “I tell my patients that the thoughts and feelings that come up during this phase are genuine, and perhaps it’s best to re-evaluate what they put up with the rest of the month, when their hormone and neurotransmitter levels are more likely programmed to prompt them to be accommodating to others’ demands and needs.”

She says that taking psych drugs, which artificially stimulate the production of the ‘it’s all good’ serotonin, is a bad idea. “Too good is no good. More serotonin might lengthen your short fuse and quell your fears, but it also helps to numb you, physically and emotionally.”

Holland explains that psych drugs frequently leave women less interested in sex and blunt negative feelings more than they boost positive ones. She says you “won’t be skipping around with a grin, it’s just that you stay more rational and less emotional.”

This “emotional blunting” encourages women to behave in ways that are approved by men –  appearing invulnerable, for example, which might help a woman move up in a male-dominated business. But it isn’t real and it isn’t normal.

Some people on psych drugs have reported less of “many other human traits: empathy, irritation, sadness, erotic dreaming, creativity, anger, expression of their feelings, mourning and worry,” Holland says. “People who don’t really need these drugs are trying to medicate a normal reaction to an unnatural set of stressors: lives without nearly enough sleep, sunshine, nutrients, movement and eye contact, which is crucial to us as social primates.”

At Novus, we encounter many patients who have used and even come to rely on anti-anxiety and antipsychotic drugs, often in combination with other addictive substances like alcohol or prescription painkillers. In our experience, patients who have detoxified from their habitual substances, and improved their health through correct diet and supplementation, routinely no longer feel the need to mask or manipulate their true feelings with substance use and abuse.

If you or someone you care for is using or abusing drugs, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We’ll answer all your questions and help you find the perfect solution to the problem.

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Yes, it’s true, you read that headline correctly.

The leading source of opioids for the highest-risk users and abusers are doctors – not the pushers on America’s streets.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that most people who abuse prescription opioids get them friends or relatives, but “those at highest risk of overdose are as likely to get them from a doctor’s prescription.”

“Many abusers of opioid pain relievers are going directly to doctors for their drugs,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden. “Health care providers need to screen for abuse risk and prescribe judiciously by checking past records in state prescription drug monitoring programs. It’s time we stop the source and treat the troubled.”

The CDC report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, says their research “underscores the need for prevention efforts that focus on physicians’ prescribing behaviors and patients at highest risk for overdose.”

CDC explains that a “highest-risk user” is someone who uses opioids more than 200 days a year. This level of use is way beyond what is considered safe for anyone.

Prescription narcotic painkillers are the leading cause of drug deaths in America, and probably in the world. Prescription opioids like oxycodone (OxyContin, Roxicodone, Percocet, Endocet) and hydrocodone (Vicodin, Zohydro, Hysingla, Dilaudid) and countless others are the most abused drugs on earth.

Yes, there has been a huge up-tick in heroin addiction and overdose deaths in the past few years. And that’s alarming, to be sure. The CDC found that heroin deaths nearly quadrupled from 2000 to 2013, and heroin related deaths occur in all demographic groups and regions of the country. Heroin overdose deaths soared a staggering 39.3 percent just from 2012 to 2013.

Across the U.S. in 2013, there were 44,000 drug overdose deaths. Nearly 23,000 were from prescription drugs, and 16,000 of those involved powerful prescription narcotic painkillers such as Vicodin and OxyContin. So well over half of all drug deaths were from prescription drugs, and two-thirds of those were narcotic prescription painkillers.

Every day 120 people die as a result of a drug overdose and another 6,748 are treated in emergency departments (ED) for drug mishaps. And well over half of those deaths and ER visits are caused by the misuse of prescription drugs.

Here’s the complete breakdown, straight from the CDC:

“Data have shown that the majority of all people who use opioids for nonmedical reasons (using drugs without a prescription, or using drugs just for the “high” they cause) get the drugs from friends or family for free. Prevention efforts have focused on this group, emphasizing methods such as collecting unused medications through take-back events that are aimed at providing a safe and convenient way of disposing of prescription drugs responsibly.

“But these efforts fail to target those at highest risk of overdose: people who use prescription opioids nonmedically 200 or more days a year. CDC’s new analysis shows that these highest risk users get opioids through their own prescriptions 27 percent of the time, as often as they get the drugs from friends or family for free or buy them from friends. And they are about four times more likely than the average user to buy the drugs from a dealer or other stranger.

“Researchers analyzed data for the years 2008 through 2011 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). Other major sources of opioids for frequent nonmedical users include obtaining drugs from friends or relatives for free (26 percent), buying from friends or relatives (23 percent), or buying from a drug dealer (15 percent).”

So today, when we look at the big picture, we see that prescription opioid-related mishaps and deaths continue to exceed street drugs including the much-publicized heroin “epidemic.” Yes there is an epidemic of drug addiction and death in this country, but it is the misuse of prescription drugs which dwarfs the problems caused by heroin alone.

Nearly 5 years ago, Novus reported on another study that called for basically the same actions from doctors to help save lives. Titled “Study Reveals Doctors Can Do More To Prevent Prescription Drug Abuse”, it was also published in a respected medical publication, the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

That study said that “doctors could go a long way to reducing prescription drug abuse by more closely screening and monitoring patients prescribed opioid painkillers and other addictive drugs. Researchers at Yeshiva University in New York City found that most doctors provide ‘disturbingly low monitoring rates’ for patients taking prescription drugs, such as highly addictive opioid painkillers.”

Sounds eerily familiar to the new study from the CDC, doesn’t it. Let’s hope the CDC’s new study actually gets the ball rolling.

Let’s say it one more time: The biggest problem is the inherent danger of prescription narcotics, including when legitimately prescribed by doctors. More people are in danger by popping pain pills than abusing street drugs. So doctors need to pay more attention to their patients.

Here at Novus we are in the business of helping people from all walks of life get their lives back from drugs and alcohol. Believe us, we do pay attention. And we get a tremendous boost every time a patient blooms like a blossom in spring after getting off prescription opioid painkillers.

In fact, many patients are also getting free from other prescription drugs at the same time, often benzodiazapines like Xanax. So it’s a double or even a triple win for everyone concerned.

If you or anyone you care about has a problem with prescription or street drugs, don’t wait another minute. Pick up your phone and call Novus right now. We’re specialists in helping people get their lives back. And we’re always here to help.

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Methadone Bottle“Why would you want to live like that for years, when you could be drug-free?”

When a long term opiate addict now in recovery says he chose to get off drugs – all drugs – instead of going on a methadone program that could trap him for years, maybe it’s time more people paid attention to what he and thousands like him have to say.

Nicholas Colvin of Annapolis, MD, a former opiate addict, told the Maryland Capital Gazette recently, “I haven’t heard of a long-term success story for methadone. You’re still in that mind frame — you need this other substance to get your day started, illegal or not. Why would you want to live like that for years when you could be drug-free? It’s another form of control and it’s not freedom.”

Colvin said he’s been drug-free since July 6, 2012. And he says he “beat his addiction to heroin, cocaine and Percocet without methadone.”

So Colvin is living proof – one of millions around the world – who have gotten themselves free from opiate addiction without relying on a secondary addiction to methadone, in the hope that someday, somehow, you’ll manage to get off methadone.

But those tens of thousands of Americans are buying the methadone fairy tale from a lot of heavy hitters – people calling themselves addiction experts and even scientists. People like

Dr. Babak Imanoel, medical director of Adult Addiction in Maryland.

According to the Gazette, Imanoel said that methadone isn’t meant to cure addiction but treat it. He said it is the most effective because it relieves pain and gives patients structure.

“What people want to focus on,” Imanoel told the Gazette, “is ‘How long do you have to be on this?’ My answer is how long does someone with diabetes have to be on insulin?”

Well there you have it. The good doctor, a self-styled addiction “expert,” is clearly stating that once an opiate addict has been switched to methadone, that’s it for life. Because any doctor will tell you, cases of coming back from diabetes and insulin are, well, pretty much zero.

Our reply to Dr. Imanoel’s claim that methadone “relieves pain and gives patients structure.”

You want to be free of pain and get some structure back in your life?


Nicholas Colvin said from his experience, inpatient care is most effective but it isn’t accessible to most drug addicts because they usually lack insurance. Colvin went to an inpatient program in Crownsville, MD, called Hope House, that offers counseling, support and medical care. He became a certified recovery specialist after completing the program himself.

Colvin said prisoners released after completing their sentences are directed for continued treatment at Dr. Imanoel’s methadone clinic. But, Colvin added that he saw many people relapse and find their way back to jail. When questioned about this, Imanoel told the Gazette that relapses at the clinic’s methadone program are “common” but the counselors and nurses “work with the patients” to get them back on track.

Meanwhile, the methadone proponents trumpet loudly about their low relapse rates. It’s those who attempt to get off opiates without an alternative drug like methadone that do all the relapsing, they say. Maybe they should pay a visit to a real methadone clinic and take a really good look.

Just like Nicholas Colvin and countless thousands of others, people are getting their lives back every day across America without having to stay addicted for goodness knows how long to a secondary opiate like methadone.

First of all, methadone is not a “treatment.” The word “treatment” means to relieve or cure something. Repeat: Relieve or cure something.

So what is the “something” you’re trying to treat? It’s called Addiction – the need to consume a drug every day in order to survive. You’re trying to relieve or cure addiction.

So what is methadone? An opiate. What does it do? Keeps you addicted.

Now, explain how anyone can say that giving methadone to an opiate addict is a “treatment”?

It does nothing to relieve addiction, because you’re still addicted. So it certainly does nothing to cure addiction.

To actually treat the addiction, to relieve or cure addiction now, you need to get off methadone.

But you could have done that with the heroin or Vicodin or Oxycodone in the first place.

That is the message Nicholas Colvin was trying to convey at the outset of this blog.

Now comes the second, and even more horrifying aspect of methadone so-called treatment:

  1. It’s more difficult to get off then heroin or oxycodone or hydrocodone or any other opiate. It takes longer and it hurts more.
  2. As the tolerance for methadone increases, you need more every day to ward off withdrawal symptoms.
  3. So the longer you are on methadone, the greater the chances of raising your dosage to levels that are widely considered UNtreatable.

So much for methadone “treatment.”

The punch-line for this scary scenario is this. If an addict decides that the time has finally come to become drug free at last, getting off a high-dose methadone addiction can be a nightmare. Stepping down from a high dose, even with medical assistance, can be an invitation to failure.

Also, few drug detox centers will accept high-dose methadone addicts for treatment – real  treatment, that is, getting free from addiction once and for all. You have to look far and wide to find a reliable detox clinic that knows how to deal with high dose methadone addiction. Because it is not an easy thing to do without a lot of specialized knowledge and experience.

Here at Novus, we have that knowledge and experience. We are one of the few medical detox centers in the country that accepts high-dose methadone patients. We routinely achieve great results, and our patients leave feeling better than they’ve felt in years. They’ve finally won their years-long battle for independence from daily shots of methadone. At last, they are drug free and ready to get their lives back.

If you or someone you care about is in trouble with opiate dependence or addiction, do everyone a favor. Call Novus and get the help you need right now. Don’t opt for the methadone addiction prison. Let us help get you or your loved one off drugs, right now.

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Zohydro ER, the extended release hydrocodone prescription painkiller that caused a firestorm when the FDA approved it over a year ago, has finally been released in a new abuse-resistant formulation.

An extended release painkiller contains 5 or 6 times as much opioid as a single-dose pill. It’s intended to be released slowly over many hours after you take it.

But addicts want to get all that opioid in a single hit by crushing it into a powder and snorting it, or mixing it in a liquid and shooting it up with a syringe.

The new Zohydro ER is made using something called BeadTek technology, which is designed to deter abuse “without changing the release properties of hydrocodone when Zohydro ER is used as intended,” says the announcement from the pill’s maker, Zoegenix, Inc., of San Diego, CA.

The company claims that, when the new pill is crushed and mixed into a liquid or solvent, the BeadTek technology turns it into a viscous gel that’s impossible to use in a syringe.

The product label won’t include the abuse-deterrence claim until later in the year after the company finishes “Human Abuse Liability studies” of the pill’s new abuse-deterrent properties and submits the results to the FDA. These findings will affect the wording for the label.

Original FDA approval ignited a firestorm

Zohydro ER, the first pure hydrocodone extended release pill ever, with no abuse deterrence at all, was asking the FDA for approval to bring it to market.

We already knew that hydrocodone was the most abused prescription opioid in America – even mixed, as it always was with acetaminophen in drugs like Lortab, Norco and Vicodin.

Also, the country had already endured the horrors unleashed by Purdue Pharma’s OxyContin – a pure oxycodone extended release painkiller that triggered a decade of addictions, overdose deaths and ruined lives across the country.

Purdue Pharma had come out with an anti-abuse version of OxyContin back in 2012, and it was seen as making a difference. Well actually, sending most addicts on to heroin or over to the various other painkillers like hydrocodone, hydromorphone and others.

But now, here came Zohydro ER, pure hydrocodone with no built-in deterrence. It looked to everyone concerned like OxyContin all over again.

The FDA’s approval of the original Zohydro ER ignited a firestorm of adverse reaction in the media, letters to the FDA from institutions all over the country, even demands that the head of the FDA resign. Criticism came not just from the public, but also from a wide cross-section of the medical profession. The consensus was that Zohydro ER offered nothing but more danger of abuse and deaths from overdose, since there was no real need seen for more opioid painkillers.

Not only did the FDA approve Zohydro ER as-is in the face of all this criticism, it did so against the direct recommendation of its own medical, scientific and research advisory committee to disapprove the drug and keep it off the market.

DEA classifies hydrocodone as even more dangerous

Last year, not too long after the FDA approved the original Zohydro ER and after more than a decade of hemming and hawing, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) finally rescheduled hydrocodone-containing meds as Schedule II drugs, up from Schedule III.

In plain English, this meant it was finally acknowledged that hydrocodone is just as dangerous as oxycodone, which has always been Schedule II.

We at Novus were pleased to report on the DEA rescheduling of hydrocodone, since we see the harm that hydrocodone has brought to so many of our patients. Hydrocodone is among the top killer drugs in America.

And believe it or not, 99 percent of all hydrocodone is consumed right here in America. The rest of the world just isn’t interested, because there are plenty of other prescription opioids to choose from. And many, if not most pain management specialists, even here in America, question the need for more.

Also, late last year, Purdue Pharma came out with its own anti-abuse hydrocodone extended release painkiller, with the company’s abuse-resistance technology built in. Called Hysingla ER, it’s abuse-deterrent technology “discourages” chewing, crushing, snorting or injecting.

Even a legitimate prescription can lead to hydrocodone dependence

Let’s not forget that there are many medical patients who take legitimate, doctor-ordered hydrocodone or other opioids for pain, who then become dependent on the drugs – abuse-resistant or not. These people need to be carefully weaned off those drugs, but some of them actually become addicted.

So here we are, in a country awash in prescription opioid painkillers (there are dozens) and countless thousands of prescription opioid painkiller addicts, and we have not one, but two new ones. And doctors often find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place – wanting to help their patients, but at the same time wanting to avoid over-medicating with seriously addictive painkillers.

There is a movement afoot among pain specialists and researchers to find solutions for mild and moderate pain other than opioids and opiates. Some approaches are already being used, but it’s rough going when the American public is demanding opioids, and nearly all regular doctors know very little about alternatives. Perhaps this will be the subject of a future blog.

Meanwhile, here at Novus, we’re known far and wide for our medical breakthroughs in opioid detoxification, including hydrocodone. Our proprietary opioid detox protocols result in much more comfortable detox experiences for our patients, and even improves patients’ overall health. Patients often remark as they’re leaving, “I haven’t felt this good in years, even before I got into trouble with (substance abuse).”

If you or someone you care for has a problem with opioid dependence or addiction, don’t hesitate to call us. We are always here to help.

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crying-baby The rate of babies being born in Canada’s province of Ontario suffering from opioid withdrawal has soared to more than 15 times what it was 20 years ago.

Newborn withdrawal, called neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), grew in Ontario from about 0.3 per 1,000 live births in 1992 to 4.3 per 1,000 in 2011 – in all, nearly 3,100 infants born suffering the same frightful withdrawal symptoms that adult addicts go through when kicking opioid dependence.

And newborn babies don’t have whatever tiny bit of comfort there might be in at least knowing why they’re in so much pain and that it will eventually be over.

Two major facts point at a most disturbing situation:

  • Nearly all the mothers were dependent on prescription opioids like oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine from their physicians, not street drugs like heroin or illicit opioid painkillers.
  • Most of the increase occurred in just the past 5 years – over 1,900 babies, 2/3 of the total 3,100.

The past 5 years has seen negative publicity at an all-time high about the dangers of overprescribing opioid pain killers. Canadians should have expected their doctors to back off from the unhealthy rates of prescribing opioids that occurred through the 1990s and early 2000s. But it appears some Canadian doctors didn’t get the memo, as the saying goes.

The research, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, says women were prescribed opioids both before and during pregnancy. Principal researcher Dr. Suzanne Turner, a physician at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto who specializes in providing obstetrical care for women with addictions, said the study suggests that many women were prescribed opioid painkillers to treat pain prior to or during their pregnancies, and then at some point a dependence or an addiction was identified and they were switched to methadone.

Current medical opinion holds that methadone withdrawal is a little easier on newborns. Although switching one dependence (painkillers) for another (methadone) hardly sounds like treatment for most people. But in the case of pregnancy, an opioid- dependent mother-to-be must not attempt to detox because it is dangerous to the fetus.

“That’s really important because we know that methadone is actually good in [such a] pregnancy because it stabilizes mom, and babies are more likely to be born at term and at high birth weight and healthy.”

Of course, Turner’s use of the term “healthy” doesn’t mean that these newborns don’t face a week or two of methadone withdrawal hell, unless they are carefully weaned from a replacement drug such as morphine.

“The concern to me is how do we address the fact that they were prescribed opiates prior to pregnancy and is there something we can do at that stage to prevent the transition to addiction and then requiring methadone,” she asked. “This is a treatable condition. If the babies get morphine, which is typically the standard of care, they’re not in withdrawal and then we slowly wean them off that dose of morphine over time.”

Addiction to prescription opioids now exceeds heroin addiction as the most common reason to offer methadone as a “treatment.” Turner says that preventing addiction by using alternative pain-relief therapies when possible would pay dividends for both mothers and their babies. “It speaks to the fact that doctors need to be aware there is the risk of addiction if women are prescribed opiates prior to pregnancy, and if they’re of child-bearing age, those risks should be assessed.”

Turner added that doctors and other caregivers need to counsel women that using any opioid during pregnancy can lead to NAS. She said this is especially important information for women with addictions because of the uncommonly high risk of unplanned pregnancies.

Here at Novus, we deal with opioid/opiate painkiller dependencies and addictions on a daily basis. If you or someone you care for needs help with opioid dependence, don’t hesitate to call us. We’ll help you find the right solution for your situation.

Image courtesy of arztsamui at

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Sleepy Teen on Books

A recent study at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, has found that marijuana is strongly associated with “excessive daytime sleepiness” in adolescents.

Medical researchers at the hospital were trying to figure out why ordinary teens might suffer from a condition called narcolepsy – uncontrollably nodding off at unpredictable moments, sometimes in the middle of a conversation – since it’s predominantly a condition in adults, not kids.

The researchers reviewed the last 10 years of sleep studies on 383 teenagers who had been sent to the hospital’s Sleep Center for excessive daytime sleepiness. They found that 10 percent of the kids who tested positive for narcolepsy also tested positive for marijuana.

Also, nearly half of those kids who tested positive for marijuana – 43 percent to be exact – had abnormal sleep problems, some that were fully consistent with narcolepsy.

Finally, boys were more likely than girls to have both a positive marijuana drug screen and the sleep disorder called narcolepsy.

Always check for drugs first, says doc

Now comes the good news: After taking part in drug counseling and cutting back or eliminating marijuana use, the weed smokers were apparently no longer affected by “excessive daytime sleepiness” or narcolepsy.

Mark Splaingard, MD, a faculty member at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and director of the hospital’s sleep center, said that a diagnosis of narcolepsy in teens shouldn’t be accepted until the patient has been drug tested. Adult studies already have concluded that numerous medications as well as illicit drugs can affect results of sleep tests and can lead to a false diagnosis of narcolepsy, and it turns out the same holds true for kids.

“Our findings highlight and support the important step of obtaining a urine drug screen, in any patients older than 13 years of age,” Dr. Splaingard said, “in any studies looking at the prevalence of narcolepsy in adolescents – especially with the recent trend in marijuana decriminalization and legalization.”

A sleep study determines if someone has narcolepsy or some other excessive daytime sleep disorder. It involves coming to the sleep center for 4 or 5 days in a row and taking a nice afternoon nap while sleep specialists monitor several factors, such as how fast you fall asleep, how deep the sleep is (measured by Rapid Eye Movement or REM) and physical activity like jerking, frequent leg movements, rolling over and frequency of partially waking up and going back to sleep.

“A key finding of this study is that marijuana use may be associated with excessive daytime sleepiness in some teenagers,” said Dr. Splaingard. “A negative urine drug screen finding is an important part of the clinical evaluation before accepting a diagnosis of narcolepsy and starting treatment in a teenager.”

The message here is that anyone with teenage sons or daughters, or adolescent students, employees or friends who are nodding off during the day, should check on drug use by those kids first, before the time and expense of researching sleep disorders.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

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Susan Shapiro Susan Shapiro, best-selling American author of nine books and an award-winning professor of writing at The New School and New York University, says a serious, 27-year addiction to marijuana almost ruined her life. And because of how marijuana negatively impacted her life, and new scientific evidence of its side effects, she says she’s ambivalent about the current trend to legalize the drug.

In a recent opinion piece written for the Providence Journal, Shapiro says that in 2014 the US “went cannabis crazy,” with 18 states now having legalized marijuana.

“Colorado opened boutiques selling ‘mountain high suckers’ in grape and butterscotch flavors,” Shapiro writes. “In my New York home, I’m glad that someone can carry up to 50 joints and no longer get thrown in the joint. Yet I worry that user-friendly laws and such recent screen glorifications as “High Maintenance” and “Kid Cannabis” send young people a message that getting stoned is cool and hilarious.

“I know the dark side,” Shapiro explained. “I’m ambivalent about legalizing marijuana because I was addicted for 27 years. After starting to smoke weed at Bob Dylan concerts when I was 13, I saw how it can make you say and do things that are provocative and perilous. I bought pot in bad neighborhoods at 3 a.m., confronted a dealer for selling me a dime bag of oregano, let shady pushers I barely knew deliver marijuana like pizza to my home. I mailed weed to my vacation spots and smoked a cocaine-laced joint a bus driver offered when I was his only passenger.

“Back then Willie Nelson songs, Cheech and Chong routines and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” made getting high seem kooky and harmless. My reality was closer to Walter White’s self-destruction from meth on TV’s “Breaking Bad” and the delusional nightmares in the film “Requiem for a Dream.”

Shapiro says that marijuana became an extreme addiction, but that she was finally able to kick the addiction and has been free of drug use for nearly a decade. She adds, however, that she’s far from alone in suffering from marijuana addiction.

A 2012 survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reveals that half of all people who smoke marijuana on a daily basis will become addicted. Roughly 2.7 million people already are marijuana addicts, and nearly 17 percent of those who get high as teenagers will become addicted to marijuana.

Shapiro also points out how the strength of the psychoactive ingredients in marijuana has increased dramatically in recent years. “The weed of today is far stronger than in the past,” she writes. “The new edible pot products can be 10 times stronger than a traditional joint, says a report in the New England Journal of Medicine. How you react to marijuana depends on your size, what you’ve eaten, the medications you take. As I tapered off, one hit from a pipe or bong could leave me reeling, as if I’d had five drinks.”

Shapiro listed some of the dangers of marijuana, according to recent research:

  • Marijuana causes more car accidents than any other illicit drug
  • Marijuana doubles the risk of being in a car accident if you drive soon after smoking it
  • Marijuana contributed to 12 percent of traffic deaths in the U.S. in 2010, triple the rate of a decade earlier.

The medical side effects are also significant:

  • Smoking marijuana increases the risk of lung cancer 8 percent – British and New Zealand studies.
  • Smoking marijuana associated with bronchitis, respiratory infections and increases the risk of heart attack and stroke – New England Journal of Medicine.
  • Frequent marijuana use by teenagers and young adults causes cognitive decline and decreases IQ – another 2014 study.

“Marijuana essentially fries your brain,” Shapiro says. “Before jumping on the buzzed bandwagon, throwing a pot dessert party or voting to lift all restrictions, ask yourself and your kids: Is the high worth the lows? We shouldn’t send pot smokers to prison, but they don’t belong on pop-culture pedestals either.”

Susan Shapiro is the author of nine popular books, including Five Men Who Broke My Heart, Only as Good as Your Word, Lighting Up, Speed Shrinking, Overexposed and coauthor of The Bosnia List and the New York Times bestseller Unhooked: How To Quit Anything.

Shapiro has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, The Nation, The Daily Beast,, Glamour and Marie Claire and many others. She is also on the board of the National Book Critics Circle.

Here at Novus Medical Detox Center, we help our patients recover their lives after falling prey to dependence and addiction, and many of them cite marijuana and alcohol in their teenage years as the forerunner of what later became addiction. If you or anyone you care for is having a problem with alcohol or drugs, including marijuana, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We’re always here to help.

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Last November, 60 percent of the citizens of California voted “Yes” on the controversial Proposition 47, also known as the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, which reduces non-violent drug-related crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.

The new law affects “non-serious, nonviolent crimes” unless the defendant has prior convictions for murder, rape, certain sex offenses or certain gun crimes.

Also, anyone already serving a sentence now can be re-sentenced. That means defendants in drug treatment as a result of a Drug Court sentence can now walk out of treatment without finishing it and not suffer the consequence of a felony conviction on their record. Until now, Drug Court-ordered treatments had to be completed to have the felony conviction scrubbed.

The effects of Prop. 47 are being felt throughout most of the state. And in Southern California’s affluent Orange County (OC), the new law is creating a massive stir. Since the vote was enacted, OC officials say admissions at government-funded treatment centers have dropped significantly. They blame Prop. 47, which has effectively neutered Drug Court magistrates who can no longer entice many drug offenders to enter treatment with the reward of a scrubbed felony conviction when they graduate.

And in spite of the fact that the county just added another $1.7 million to its already generous $9.4-million public detox and rehab fund, Court officials say they’re “bracing for a big drop in applicants.”

Paul Shapiro, the OC’s Superior Court coordinator of collaborative courts, told the OCRegister that Drug Court was averaging about 50 evaluations each month during 2014 until Prop. 47 passed in November. Since then, Shapiro said, there were only 25 evaluations in November, and this dropped to 15 in December. Shapiro said there’s still some hope that the decline will let up or reverse.

But other professionals told the paper that if addicts are referred to the program, they may decline treatment because there’s no threat of a felony record. Without that motivation to enter treatment, “a lot of people will just wait until they hit another barrier,” said Cathy Stills, executive director of a treatment center called Hope House. “This might be an overdose, a car crash, or something more serious.”

Proponents of Prop 47 say there are other means and methods to encourage drug dependent offenders to enter treatment than “threatening them with a felony.” They should be treated like any other drug addict with life problems, and dealt with on a personal level, they say.

But Superior Court Judge Matthew Anderson, who’s been presiding over the Drug Court program for 15 years, says otherwise. According to the OCRegister, Anderson dismissed the notion that society needs to readjust how it helps addicts. He said Drug Court already did that when it was introduced nationally more than 20 years ago. “We’ve been dealing with drug addiction for decades, and before drug courts came into being, the criminal justice system was struggling mightily,” Anderson said.

Anderson pointed to the Drug Court’s successes: Of the 1,911 people who’ve graduated since it began in Orange County in 1995, 28.8 percent were arrested again – far lower than the 74.4 percent recidivism rate cited for those who didn’t complete drug court. “It’s unfortunate that a program as prominent and successful as Drug Court could be placed at risk here,” Anderson told the OCRegister.

It seems that Southern California is the most natural region for something like Prop. 47 to pass. And that’s especially true in Orange County, the home of Disneyland, the World Series-winning Anaheim Angels, the Stanley Cup-winning Anaheim Ducks and a whole slew of Fortune 500 companies.

OC is also home to more than 3 million Southern Californians who appear to enjoy a generally higher standard of living than many of their 4 million neighbors just to the north in the City of Los Angeles. Orange County denizens tend to think they have everything a little better than their fellow citizens to the north – things like less urban blight and lower unemployment, better jobs and housing and newer, better schools for their more-privileged kids.

Orange County and Los Angeles County together make up the Los Angeles metropolitan area. With a population of 10 million, it’s the second-largest metropolitan area in the US, after the New York metropolitan area with 24 million residents. And even when Orange County and Los Angeles County are combined with their three neighboring counties – San Bernardino, Riverside, and Ventura counties, which makes up what’s known as Greater Los Angeles, totaling over 18 million people – Southern California still comes in behind New York as far as population goes.

If you drive the 50 or so miles of colorful coastal highway from Long Beach in L.A. south to San Clemente, where OC ends and San Diego begins, you pass through a half dozen or so of the wealthiest beach communities in the country – Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point (famous for surfing) and at the southernmost point, San Clemente, where President Richard Nixon’s ‘Western White House’ entertained world leaders, and where the former President lived after his retirement. Nixon was an OC boy himself, born and raised in Yorba Linda.

Yet in recent years, in spite of being perceived as a Mecca for the privileged Southern California lifestyle, OC has been plagued by a rising tide of drugs and addiction. Like the rest of America, the county has had to cope with the soaring crime rates and overdose deaths and other family tragedies that accompany widespread drug abuse.

And if you tune in to Southern California radio or TV news you’re going to hear this sprawling, ethnically diverse region called “The Southland” – fabled home to countless millionaires whose handsome, smiling faces you see every day on TV and in the movies. Southern California breeds a feeling, an attitude, that you’re in the best of all possible places – the best opportunities, best weather, best beaches, best surfing and, of course, wall-to-wall movie stars.

Two things are clear from all this. First, higher living standards, great surfing and movies stars offer no protection from the negative personal and societal effects of drug and alcohol abuse. In fact, in some way, actually encourage drug abuse.

And second, since Prop 47 has passed, the people of OC and the entire state of California need to come up with something pretty quick to deal with the soaring numbers of law-breaking drug offenders, something as effective as Drug Court, or hopefully, even better.

Meanwhile, here at Novus Medical Detox Center, we’re still hard at work helping our patients recover their lives after falling prey to drugs and alcohol. And according to the smiles on their faces and what they tell us, we’re doing one heck of a good job. If you or anyone you care for is having a problem with drugs or alcohol, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We’re always here to help.

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Categories: Drug News, Drug Overdose #

The New Jersey State Supreme Court has acquitted a young mother of child abuse and neglect after her newborn infant exhibited symptoms of methadone withdrawal.

The unanimous ruling by the State’s six Supreme Court Justices has reversed an earlier appellate court decision that the mother was guilty of abuse and neglect. The woman, called “Yvonne” in the court records, could retain custody of the baby boy, the appellate court had ruled, but only under state supervision.

The Supreme Court reversed that decision, saying the mother was taking methadone on doctor’s orders, so it couldn’t be considered neglect and abuse. She had become dependent on opiate painkillers prescribed for injuries sustained in a car accident, the records said. And when she became pregnant, she wanted to stop the painkillers, but doctors at the hospital told her to switch to methadone from the painkillers. Suddenly stopping the painkillers could jeopardize her pregnancy, she was told.

The Supreme Court sent the case back to the appellate court with instructions it would have to find some other evidence of abuse and neglect, because the evidence as presented was insufficient for such a finding.

Baby was born dependent on methadone

When the baby boy was born in early 2011, he displayed symptoms of methadone withdrawal, and had to stay in the hospital for several weeks. The NJ Division of Youth and Family Services filed a complaint, asking the family courts to seize the infant and place him in state custody.

A family court judge ruled in favor of the state, even though Yvonne was on methadone at the orders of a physician. The judge pointed out that Yvonne’s drug history dated back to 2005 and allegedly included cocaine and heroin. The judge acknowledged that Yvonne had not used those drugs while pregnant, but ruled that she could have custody of the baby but only under state supervision.

Yvonne’s case was appealed, and that’s when the appellate court upheld the family court’s decision. But the appellate court only cited the newborn’s methadone withdrawal symptoms, and ignored the earlier drug use. And it said that “the fact that defendant obtained the methadone from a legal source does not preclude our consideration of the harm it caused to the newborn.”

The Supreme Court says the appellate court made a mistake by basing its decision only on the baby’s withdrawal symptoms. It added that the court should be more careful not to make rulings that could cause pregnant women to avoid drug treatment for fear of losing their babies to the state.

The Supreme Court said that unless there are special circumstances, “a finding of abuse or neglect cannot be sustained based solely on a newborn’s enduring methadone withdrawal following a mother’s timely participation in a bona fide treatment program prescribed by a licensed health care professional to whom she has made full disclosure.”

States, feds don’t agree on legal issues

The situations surrounding pregnancy and drugs and the effects on babies has never been resolved legally at the federal or state level, and states continue to go their own way.

In some states, the fact of drug abuse while pregnant vs taking a prescription as ordered is not the issue. Simply bearing a child dependent on a drug is actionable, as in the case of NJ going after Yvonne. Fortunately for Yvonne, the Supreme Court disagreed and has probably set a new precedent for New Jersey.

Yet in some other states, no legal action is taken except in cases of clear drug abuse. In a few states child welfare always gets involved, while in others a mom can be charged with a crime. In at least one state, Tennessee, she can be charged with criminal liability, receive jail time and possibly lose custody of her baby – although there are political movements afoot to hopefully reduce the severity in Tennessee.

In some of our earlier blogs we have addressed the issues of drugs and pregnancy. Last year we reported on the fact that the number of babies being born dependent on methadone is definitely increasing. In another blog we reported how the number of newborns suffering any opioid dependency has tripled in the past few years. And in an important story last year, we covered the recent science proving that babies born dependent on opioids are at much greater risk of becoming drug abusers later in life.

This is a problem with many different viewpoints on what to do after the fact. Meanwhile, the optimum solution is to be off drugs before getting pregnant, which means encouraging more users to make the decision to end their dependence or addiction, but especially women of child-bearing age.

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Categories: Methadone #